As I write this blog post, I feel Iike after every paragraph I need to add a disclaimer. I feel the need to over explain my point. Everyone’s journey with anxiety is so different. There is so much room in this series to be misunderstood.
My prayer is that moving forward God would speak clearly to those that need to hear what I say and for those who are not ready to hear it, that my words will land on deaf ears.
All that said, we are going to dive right in. Let’s talk about medicine. I have been on a anxiety medication for over 10 years. There is less stigma now more than ever around being a Christian and taking anxiety/depression medication, but I still feel like we have a long way to go. To learn more about the beginning of my journey with anxiety, read Stand With Me. Like I shared in my previous post, my anxiety re-entered my life when I was asked to travel for a couple weeks for work. At first, I was able to hide it pretty well. My job was flexible enough that I could go home during the day and take “breaks” (curling into a ball and crying) if I needed to. Bryan’s job was flexible enough that if I needed to physically see him, he could sneak out the back door to calm me down. If people asked, I would just respond that I wasn’t feeling well. I could only fake it so long. Anxiety is an all-consuming force and sooner rather than later I began to crack. My breaks were no longer enough. There were only so many times Bryan could leave the office to see me without further explanation. We decided it was time to take action, this life was no longer sustainable. This no longer felt like a phase that was going to pass. If we let it, it would become our new way of life.
I started to see a counselor.
As a child, I saw several counselors as I was working through my separation anxiety. My vague memories are positive. It felt really different this time. Let’s be honest, I think a huge piece of it was the counselor. The first time I saw him he told me that he actually had not met with a lot of people that struggle with anxiety. He handed me a book and we methodically went through it together. I felt like we kept going in circles with no real progress.
I tried to pray more.
I knew all the verses about fear, worry and anxiety. The bible tells us to cast all our cares on him, I was trying-but it didn’t seem to be working.
I asked other people to pray for me.
When my prayers seemed to go unanswered, I thought maybe God would listen to someone else.
I tried to read The Bible more.
I knew that God’s word has power, but as much as I tried and tried to read the Bible more, all the words seemed to blur together.
I tried to retrain my mind and take my thoughts captive.
But it was still getting worse. It felt as if my mind had been captured by anxiety, not the other way around. My breaks became longer and more frequent. Bryan had to humble himself and tell his boss about what was going on. We were doing all the things that we knew to do, but nothing seemed to be working.
So I started taking Paxil.
I felt so guilty about taking anxiety medication. I felt like I had failed. Myself. Bryan. And God. But I knew something had to change, we could no longer live this way. I had always been a fighter, willing to take on whatever giant was in front of me. I had lost this fight, at least that is how I felt.
I remember the moment so clearly, it was about two weeks after I started taking Paxil. It was morning and it was time to get up. Mornings were particularly hard for me. For the last several months I could tell within minutes if the day was going to be a struggle. I opened up my eyes reluctantly. I felt different. Something had changed. I literally said out loud “Hi, there you are.” My anxiety was not gone, but I felt a little bit more like myself again. I felt a glimmer of hope. Before I move on, I want to make sure to address something. I know I was lucky. The Paxil worked for me and it worked pretty fast. Many people I know have had to try several different anxiety or depression medications before they were able to find one that worked.
Only after that was I able to seek different counsel, read my bible, reach out to people for prayer. Only after I started taking Paxil could I have clear enough thoughts to entertain the idea of taking them captive. Paxil created a pathway for me to begin healing. It gave me the space I needed to begin healing, which I continue to work on today. Paxil helped me get my footing so I could step on the path. It helped me begin my journey, but it was just the beginning.
I do believe that there are people whose anxiety is strictly chemical. If that is you, I rejoice with you that you live in a time when you have access to medication that allows you to live the way God intended for you. But my hunch is that most of us have a more complicated story. Our anxiety is full of genetics, generational patterns, childhood experiences, undealt with grief or trauma and/or circumstances. I think some of our anxiety is exaggerated by not eating well or by not exercising. I think that anxiety is usually super spiritual and super practical. I think it is chemical and it’s mental. I think for most of us it is a combination of several of these things.
For some of you reading today, you have been overcome by anxiety. You have become paralyzed and you can’t seem to crawl out of the pit. Make an appointment. Get on some medication. Create a clear path for healing.
For some of us, we have taken that step, we have worked through our guilt and shame around taking medication. We have some clarity of mind. But if you are anything like me, you just want to stay there. It’s super nice to take a pill once a day and move on with life, anxiety free.
But God calls us to more.
Because as I stated, most of our anxiety is complicated. It’s not just chemical. There is usually more. What is it for you? For me it’s trauma. It’s faulty thinking patterns that I let take over my mind instead of taking it captive. It’s eating sugar when I need to get on my knees. Its pride that keeps me from reaching out and asking for prayer. It’s me controlling my circumstances so I don’t have to be uncomfortable.
The path has been created and now it’s our job to start the journey. Not because we have to, but because God’s kindness compels us to more. I could stay on my medication for the rest of my life and not take any more steps to healing, and God’s love for me would never change. His grace would abound. But I also know that the closer I walk towards him, He meets me there. And my heart begins to change. It’s not just that my paralyzing anxiety goes away, I experience even deeper levels of peace and freedom.
Let me finish by saying this. I’m still on medication. Every year or so I try to lower my dose or go off of it. It hasn’t worked so far. But I also know when I’m not actively seeking deeper healing and peace, my medication can only take me so far. It can create a baseline, a place for me to breathe. But I want more than that. I don’t want to just exist on the baseline, I want to live in the depths of joy and peace that are available for me.
Where are you at today? What is your next step?
1. Are you a Christian who is struggling with anxiety? Have you done all the things? Have you sought prayer? Have you seen a counselor? Have you exercised regularly? Even after all of that is your anxiety paralyzing you? If so, make the appointment. If you need some help, let me know. I would love to walk with you.
2. Were you put on medication for anxiety a long time ago and have called it good? Has medication created a space for deeper healing to occur your life? Are you still seeking healing or are you content with the status quo? I promise you there is more! Dip into the deep my friend…..
We are in this together.